Today we honour the memory of Saint Boniface, who was born in Devon around the year 675 and entered the Benedictine Abbey at Nursling near Southampton. Pope Gregory II sent him to evangelise the Germans. The Church honours Saint Boniface as a determined missionary whose work shaped the future of Europe. Martyred in the Netherlands in 754. Saint Boniface wrote: “In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a ship pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship, but to keep her on course”.
There’s a special branch of the Royal Air Force called the Quick Reaction Alert. These pilots are on constant alert. Should a threat arise, they can be airborne in minutes. They could be fast asleep, brushing their teeth, or eating lunch, but they snap into action when the alarm sounds.
This sounds a bit like Tobit’s prompt response in the first reading. It was the Jewish feast of Weeks, and he was with his family, enjoying a nice dinner. But when he heard that a fellow Jew had been killed on the street, he immediately went out and buried the man. This was both a dangerous and a subversive act for a Jew living in exile in Nineveh. The Ninevites intentionally affronted Jewish customs by doing things like delaying the burial of dead Jews. But Tobit never hesitated. He was on constant alert to do God’s will. He didn’t allow his own comfort or safety to get in the way. He didn’t allow fear to stop him doing the right thing. A fellow Jew had been killed, and he deserved the dignity of a proper Jewish burial.
So how can we be ‘on call’ for God just as Tobit was? How can we be always alert like the pilots of the Quick Reaction Alert? In our case, the call won’t sound like a siren, and we probably won’t need a shovel and a strong back. God is much more likely to summon us with the ‘still small voice’ of his Spirit.
So, the key is to listen. This is why we spend some time in silence before and after Mass tuning in to the still, small voice that we can only hear when we are silent. No matter how we hear the call, like Tobit, and the Quick Reaction Alert, we have a duty to respond and take action.